Climate framework could drive better homes, say locals

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Short-sighted plan, says MP Cooper

The new pan-Canadian climate change framework could set Alberta on course for a greener future, say local critics, but only if it’s actually implemented.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change last Dec. 9. The plan sets out in broad strokes how the country will meet its greenhouse gas reduction obligations under the Paris Agreement and grow the economy.

Trudeau promised Canada a year ago that he would develop a deal with the provinces to fight climate change, said St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper. The deal he’s tabled excludes two provincial governments – Manitoba and Saskatchewan refused to sign onto it – and unilaterally imposes a price on carbon on the provinces.

“I think the prime minister has failed to show leadership on this issue.”

Sara Hastings-Simon of the Pembina Institute said this plan gave Alberta the flexibility it needed to reduce emissions without harming its economy.

“We’re sending Canada off on the right road to a decarbonised future.”

Taxes and codes

The framework commits Canada to eliminating some 219 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 – equivalent to planting some 5.7 billion trees or eliminating 82 per cent of Alberta’s current emissions.

It’s a central plank is a nation-wide carbon price, which Trudeau announced earlier this fall. The plan calls on all jurisdictions to put a $10 a tonne price on carbon emissions by 2018 that would rise by $10 a year until it hit $50 in 2022 (equivalent to about 11 cents per litre of gasoline, reports EcoAnalytics) through either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. Any place that doesn’t meet or exceed this price would have it imposed on them. Any cash collected by these systems would stay in the province where it was collected.

This federal price will not apply in Alberta so long as the provincial carbon tax stays at or above it, Hastings-Simon said. Alberta has said that it will raise its price to $30 a tonne by 2018, but has not yet committed to increases after then.

Cooper criticized the carbon price, saying that it would make Canada less competitive internationally. He argued that it would be better to continue the previous government’s approach of regulating emissions sector-by-sector.

But economists agree that an economy-wide price on carbon is the cheapest and most flexible way to regulate emissions, one that gives people the certainty they need to plan investments in new technology and renovations, Hastings-Simon said. Alberta’s tax also comes with a rebate that will eliminate much of its cost to most residents.

Europe is already talking about $200 a tonne carbon taxes, said Thomas Barr, an energy efficiency consultant with St. Albert’s NuEnergy Group.

“$50 I think is very reasonable,” he said, especially once you figure in energy savings from efficiency measures.

New in the framework is a commitment to create a “net-zero energy ready” building code by 2030. Net-zero ready homes are those that with the addition of renewable energy generation produce as much energy as they use during a year.

Barr said homeowners are becoming more interested in net-zero homes because of their potential energy savings. A net-zero building code will help ensure those homes deliver on those savings.

Also new are calls for a building code for home energy retrofits by 2022.

About 70 per cent of our homes were built in the 1960s and will be due for major renovations soon, Barr said. A retrofit code would help homeowners determine what upgrades they should make first.

The framework also calls for all buildings to have labels indicating their energy use by 2019, which Hastings-Simon said would allow buyers to see which ones were the most efficient – a very difficult task today.

The question now is whether or not government will follow through on the plans in this framework, Hastings-Simon said.

“Alberta is already moving ahead,” she noted, and B.C. and Ontario have made substantial progress on efficient homes and phasing out coal power. While the Trump administration may not be acting on climate change, many U.S. states are, and Canada will have to account for their actions to stay competitive.

Visit ec.gc.ca to read the framework.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.